Olive Magazine
Gigantes Plaki Recipe

40 low-calorie meals

Published: February 21, 2022 at 3:06 pm

Our healthy recipes pack in plenty of flavour and nutritious ingredients without all the calories. Try lighter versions of classics, veg-rich soups and vibrant salads

Looking for low-calorie meals? Try our dinner recipes for healthier pasta, curries and one-pots as well as low-calorie lunch ideas such as hearty soups and nutritious, filling salads.


Keeping an eye on calories can be important if you are looking to lose weight, but it doesn't have to mean losing flavour. Low-calorie cooking typically also includes more lean proteins, such as chicken, fish and beans as well as more vegetables and whole grains which are full of fibre. Together this helps keep blood sugars balanced, reducing sugar cravings and keeping you fuller for longer.

Our complete low-calorie meals all come under 500 calories. They include a lighter version of a pad thai using courgetti instead of noodles (check out our courgetti recipes here), warming chicken curry, and even a low-calorie lasagne. Looking for a low-calorie vegetarian dinner? Try our vegan chilli packed with nutritious avocado, black beans and quinoa. Alternatively, check out these high-calorie foods to try.

At olive, you won’t find us telling you what to eat, and especially not what to cut out – we’d rather give you all the facts to make your own decisions on what constitutes a balanced and nutritious diet that works for you. We’re all about the joy of food – whether that’s a fudgy chocolate cake, a colourful salad or a speedy low-calorie curry that’s full of flavour. So happy cooking and happy eating!

Here are some tips for low-calorie meals

Use a little less oil

A recipe may ask for a splash of oil or a few tablespoons but you can usually get away with using a lot less – think teaspoons rather than tablespoons. A good tip is to use a non-stick frying pan as things are less likely to stick to the surface. You can also use water instead of oil when frying ingredients such as onions. This helps soften the onion then evaporates so they can then start to take on colour. If using oil when roasting, try adding the ingredients to a bowl first, before drizzling in a little oil and tossing well. You’ll find that a little oil goes a long way when done like this. Putting the ingredient into the tray first, then drizzling with oil often leads to an excess of oil being used.

Use lighter carb alternatives

Carbs are an important part of a balanced diet but if you want to go lighter on the carbs there are some great alternatives such as butternut squash sheets which are great in lasagnes, courgetti for using in stir-fries or pasta dishes, and cauliflower rice to serve with your favourite curry or chilli. You can also eat more complex carbs such as brown rice, quinoa, lentils, beans and oats – they all take longer to digest so are thought to be a better source of sustained energy.

Batch cooking and freezing

Having a few meals stashed away in the freezer will help if you’ve had a busy day and need something extra-quick for dinner. Lots of these recipes are easily doubled so you can cook a big batch then portion out and freeze. Remember to label your plastic containers so you can tell the difference between a chilli and pasta sauce. Our chicken saag, beef bourguignon, lamb stew and lentil bolognese recipes will all freeze brilliantly.

Low-calorie dinner recipes

Healthy turkey burgers

Looking for a low-calorie meal that’s packed with flavour? Have a go at our turkey mince burgers, sandwiched with lettuce, tomato, onion slices and tomato chutney.

Two Turkey Burgers in Buns with Lettuce and Tomato on a Wooden Board

Healthy jacket potato

Looking for a low-calorie lunch that ticks all the flavour boxes? Check out this recipe for a niçoise salad-filled jacket potato.

Healthy Jacket Potato Topped with Tuna, Green Beans and Egg

Spicy pork meatballs with tzatziki

Cook these spicy pork meatballs and serve on orzo and baby leaf greens for a healthy, low-fat midweek meal.

Spicy Pork Meatball Recipe with Tzatziki Dip

Vietnamese dumpling noodle bowl

Inspired by Vietnamese bun cha gio, this quick, low-calorie noodle dish is packed with texture from crispy pan-fried gyozas and plenty of colour from fresh herbs and veg.

A Bowl of Dumplings, Fresh Veg and Noodles with Chopsticks on a Wooden Surface

Baked orzo with harissa prawns

Flavour prawns with harissa, dill, garlic and lemon, then serve swirled through orzo pasta for a speedy but sophisticated midweek dinner.

Baked Orzo with Harissa Prawns and Lemon on a Blue Plate

Healthy beans on toast

Ezme, a Turkish-inspired paste with tomatoes, peppers, onion and pomegranate molasses, adds extra flavour in these low-cal baked beans on toast with a twist. It’s low in salt, too.

Healthy beans on toast on a plate

Healthy egg-fried rice

Quick, easy and low in calories, check out this ginger fried rice with sweet juicy crab for extra oomph.

Healthy Egg Fried Rice on a White Plate

Healthy chicken stir-fry

This shredded chicken stir-fry by Nadine Brown comes in at under 500 calories, but its fresh, gingery flavour and red chilli heat means it doesn’t compromise on flavour.

Three plates of colourful stir-fry with drinks on the side

Teriyaki salmon salad

Try our simple salmon salad recipe with crunchy green beans, broccoli and a sweet teriyaki dressing, ready in just 15 minutes.

Salmon Salad With Green Beans and Broccoli

Balsamic lentils with pork fillet

Balsamic offers a tartness to our vibrant pork dish. This well-balanced meal with yummy lentils is high in protein but low in calories and salt – perfect for a midweek meal for four.

Pork Fillet Recipe with Lentils

Chorizo, greens and bean stew

Check out our hearty, healthy and high-protein chorizo stew dinner, flavoured with sweet smoked paprika and peppered with cannellini beans, cherry tomatoes and kale.

Chorizo, Greens and Bean Stew in a Baking Dish

Healthy vegan quinoa and black bean chilli

This quinoa and black bean chilli recipe is high in protein, low in calories and vegan – but still tastes impossibly creamy. Try our vegan one-pot or click here to see our other vegan recipes.

Easy Vegan Chilli Recipe with Quinoa

Turkey keema curry

Packed with fresh and zingy flavours, and plenty of punchy spices, this low-calorie Indian turkey mince curry makes an easy midweek meal.

Turkey Keema Curry with Peas and Coriander in a Frying Pan

Stuffed butternut squash with feta

Transform butternut squash into a colourful, low-calorie midweek dinner by stuffing it with rice, lemon zest, raisins, dill, pine nuts and feta.

Two butternut squash halves stuffed with feta, rice and sultanas

One-pan fish stew

Pair juicy prawns with white fish, creamy butter beans, feta and earthy kale in a flavoursome tomato sauce. This easy one-pot dinner is ready in just 40 minutes.

One-pan Fish Stew in a White Bowl on a Blue Wooden Board

Gigantes plaki (Greek baked beans)

Ready in under an hour, this Greek one-pot is packed with plenty of fresh flavours as well as protein and fibre, making it a healthy vegetarian meal idea with less than 300 calories. Check out our best Greek recipes.

Gigantes Plaki Recipe

Lighter pad thai

This recipe for pad thai is packed full of authentic Thai flavours but without the high calorie count as we've used courgetti instead of noodles. It's really easy to make and ready in under 30 minutes, perfect for a healthy midweek fix.

Frying pan full of healthy Pad Thai with prawns

Chicken saag

Our chicken saag recipe proves that you can eat healthily without having to miss out on your favourite foods. It's lighter than regular curries but still filling and satisfying. Try our low-calorie curry ideas.

Healthy Curry Chicken Saag in a Casserole Dish

Chicken satay noodle salad

Check out our easy chicken satay noodle salad recipe with red cabbage, shredded carrots and roasted peanuts. This vibrant crunchy salad is light, nourishing and ready in an hour.

Satay Chicken Noodle Salad Recipe

Light paneer curry

Cook this veg-heavy curry for a healthy vegetarian meal. The peas add extra protein while ginger and plum tomatoes make a light, fragrant sauce.

Healthy Paneer Curry Recipe

Miso tofu soup

Give this miso soup with silken tofu a go for a dinner – it’s light, creamy and low in calories.

Two white bowls filled with noodles, green vegetable and eggs with a bright orange yolk

Healthy tacos

Stuffed with smoky courgette, zesty black beans, pickled red onion and creamy avocado, these healthy tacos are bursting with flavour – they happen to be low in calories and vegan, too.

Healthy Courgette Tacos on a Plate with Pickled Onions

Chicken and spinach pilaf

Nothing beats a fail-safe pilaf recipe for a quick (but nutritious) midweek dinner. Ours is coloured with turmeric and comes packed with baby spinach and coriander. It's also great for using up left-over chicken.

Chicken Pilaf Recipe with Spinach

Orecchiette with anchovies, cavolo nero and caramelised onions

This low-calorie, simple but tasty pasta dish with salty anchovies and fresh seasonal cavolo nero makes a quick and easy mid-week evening meal for two. Cavolo nero, also known as black kale, is a rich but robust brassica, originally from Tuscany. It’s great in soups, stews and hearty pasta dishes.

Orecchiette with anchovies, cavolo nero and caramelised onions

Chilli-salt salmon with chopped salad

Check out this quick and simple marinaded chilli-salt salmon. This colourful recipe makes a wonderfully light and flavoursome lunch.

Chilli Salmon Recipe with Chopped Salad

Kimchi-baked tofu

A traditional Korean food, kimchi (spicy, fermented cabbage and vegetables) adds flavour and health kudos to this tofu dish.

Kimchi-Baked Tofu in a Metal Tray

Spiced carrot and lentil soup

Need a warming, nourishing dinner? Make our simple red lentil soup recipe with lightly spiced curried carrots then swirl with yogurt and serve.

Spicy Carrot and Lentil Soup

Easy chicken mole

Our recipe for cheat's chicken mole uses a clever product, meaning it's ready in less than an hour but still filled with fresh flavour. Serve with rice for a healthy dinner.

Easy Chicken Mole Recipe

Vegan fajita bowl with cauli rice

Stay on trend while eating healthily with this vegan fajita bowl with cauli rice. It's quick and easy to make as well as being vegan and 5:2-diet friendly, but still delivers on flavour. Check out our vegan recipe ideas here.

Vegan Fajita Bowl with Cauliflower Rice Recipe

Spring greens shakshuka

A fab healthy brunch recipe. Shakshuka, traditionally a North African dish, is typically comprised of spices, eggs and tomatoes, but here we've decided to mix things up a little, making it green and healthy with asparagus tips and broad beans.

Green shakshuka in a white pan

Tuscan pork steaks

Our healthy recipe for Tuscan pork steaks ticks all the boxes. It's filling, low fat, low sugar, low salt and high in protein to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Tuscan Pork Chops Recipe

Cumin-crusted chicken with kale salad and hummus dressing

A clever way to make chicken that little bit more exciting. Serve with a drizzle of hummus and white wine vinegar dressing.

Cumin-Crusted Chicken with Kale Salad on two Plates

Smashed broad beans on toast

Not a fan of the classic beans on toast? Try our greener, healthier version, broad beans on toast. This recipe is quick and easy to rustle up, ideal for when you're short of time and on a diet. Here are our favourite broad beans recipes to try.

Several pieces of toast with smashed broad beans spread over them

Peri-peri chicken mozzarella stacks with ‘macho’ peas

Check out this easy chicken recipe with creamy mozzarella, roasted red peppers and punchy 'macho' peas. Nando’s fans will love this lighter version of the classic.

Peri-peri Chicken Mozzarella Stacks with 'Macho' Peas

Lentil 'meatballs' with fresh tomato sauce

Lentils are a great way to make a meal vegetarian. Swap these for your usual meatballs and your family will hardly notice the difference. Plus, they're ready in just 40 minutes – perfect for during the week.

Lentil ‘Meatballs’ With Fresh Tomato Sauce Recipe

Healthy chicken and lentil salad

Check out this vibrant griddled chicken salad with crunchy green beans, seasonal mangetout and mustardy lentils. This quick and easy salad is low calorie and ready in 30 minutes – the perfect way to start the week.

Griddled Chicken with Mustardy Lentil Salad

Courgetti with pesto and balsamic tomatoes

Who needs pasta when you can have spiralised courgette? Try our easy courgetti recipe, made with baby plum tomatoes, garlic, pesto, pine nuts and a lot of courgette noodles.

Courgetti Recipe with Pesto and Tomatoes

Tandoori lamb steaks with chilli-spiked slaw

This recipe for tandoori lamb steaks with chilli-spiked slaw is delicious, nutritious and high in protein but low in fat sugar and salt. It's a real midweek winner.

Tandoori Lamb Recipe with Coleslaw

One-pot paprika cod and chickpeas

Check out our punchy paprika cod one-pot with juicy tomatoes. This simple traybake is an easy midweek meal for when you're short on time but still want something healthy.

Cod and Chickpea One-Pot Recipe

15-minute mushroom stroganoff

This quick and easy mushroom and tarragon stroganoff makes for a great, healthy midweek meal, ready in just quarter of an hour.

Easy Stroganoff Recipe with Mushroom and Tarragon

Need more healthy inspiration? Take a look at our favourite courgetti recipes now...


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